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Principality of Catalonia

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Roman Catholicism

Charles III (last)

Catalan, Latin

Alfons I (first)


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Monarchy subject to constitutions

Principality of catalonia

The Principality of Catalonia (Catalan: Principat de Catalunya, Latin: Principatus Cathaloniæ, Occitan: Principautat de Catalonha), is a historic territory and a medieval and early modern political entity in the northeastern Iberian Peninsula, mostly in Spain, with an adjoining portion in southern France. Between the 13th and the 18th centuries it was bordered by the Kingdom of Aragon to the west, the Kingdom of Valencia to the south, the Kingdom of France and the feudal lordship of Andorra to the north and by the Mediterranean sea to the east.


The first reference to Catalonia and the Catalans appears in the Liber maiolichinus de gestis Pisanorum illustribus, a Pisan chronicle (written between 1117 and 1125) of the conquest of Minorca by a joint force of Italians, Catalans, and Occitans. At the time, Catalonia did not yet exist as a political entity, though the use of this term seems to acknowledge Catalonia as a cultural or geographical entity.

The counties that would eventually make up the Principality of Catalonia were gradually unified under the rule of the Count of Barcelona. In 1137, the County of Barcelona and the Kingdom of Aragon were unified under a single dynasty, creating what modern historians call the Crown of Aragon; however Aragon and Catalonia retained their own political structure and legal traditions. Because of these legal differences and their use of different language —Aragonese and Catalan— an official recognition of the Catalan Counties as a distinct political entity with its own institutions, laws and political community became necessary.

Under Alfons the Troubador (reigned 1164-1196), Catalonia was regarded as a legal entity for the first time. Still, the term Principality of Catalonia was not used legally until the 14th century, when it was applied to the territories ruled by the Courts of Catalonia.

The term "Principality of Catalonia" remained in use until the Second Spanish Republic, when its use declined because of its historical relation to the monarchy. Today, the term is used primarily by Catalan nationalists and independentists to refer collectively to the French and Spanish-administered parts of Catalonia.

Principality of catalonia


Like much of the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula, it was colonized by Ancient Greeks, which chose Roses to settle in. Both Greeks and Carthaginians interacted with the main Iberian population. After the Carthaginian defeat, it became, along with the rest of Hispania, a part of the Roman Empire, Tarraco being one of the main Roman posts in the Iberian Peninsula.

The Visigoths ruled after the Western Roman Empire's collapse near the end of the 5th century. Moorish Al-Andalus gained control in the early 8th century, after conquering the Visigothic kingdom in 711-718. After the defeat of Emir Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqiwas's troops at Tours in 732, the Franks gradually gained control of the former Visigoth territories north of the Pyrenees, which had been captured by the Muslims or had become allied with them, in what is today Catalonia under French administration. In 795, Charlemagne created what came to be known as the Marca Hispanica, a buffer zone beyond the province of Septimania, made up of locally administered separate petty kingdoms which served as a defensive barrier between the Umayyad of Al-Andalus and the Frankish Kingdom.

A distinctive Catalan culture started to develop in the Middle Ages stemming from a number of these petty kingdoms organized as small counties throughout the northernmost part of Catalonia. The counts of Barcelona were Frankish vassals nominated by the Carolingian emperor then the king of the Franks, to whom they were feudatories (801-987). During the 9th century, the Count of Barcelona Wifred the Hairy made its title hereditary and founded the dynasty of the House of Barcelona, which ruled Catalonia until the death of Martin I, its last member, in 1410.

In 987 the count of Barcelona did not recognise Frankish king Hugh Capet and his new dynasty which put it effectively out of the Frankish rule. At the start of eleventh century the Catalan Counties suffer an important process of feudalisation. Then, in 1137 Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona married Petronilla of Aragon establishing the dynastic union of the County of Barcelona and its dominions with the Kingdom of Aragon which was to create the Crown of Aragon.

The Battle of Muret (12 September 1213) and the unexpected defeat of King Peter of Aragon and Count of Barcelona and his vassals and allies, the counts of Toulouse, Comminges and Foix resulted in the fading of the strong human, cultural and economic ties existing between the ancient territories of Catalonia and the Languedoc.

In 1258, by means of the Treaty of Corbeil, the Count of Barcelona and King of Aragon, James I of Aragon descendant of the sons of Sunifred and heir of the House of Barcelona relinquished his family rights and dominions in the Languedoc and recognized the Capetian king of France as heir of the Carolingian Dynasty. On the other side, the king of France, heir of the Carolingian Empire formally renounced his nominal feudal lordship over all the Catalan counties. This treaty turned the de facto independence of the Catalan counties into a full de jure, but meant the irremediable separation between the people of Catalonia and the Languedoc.

As a coastal territory within the Crown of Aragon and the increasing importance of the port of Barcelona, Catalonia became the main centre of the Crown's maritime power, helping to expand its influence and power by conquest and trade into Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Sardinia and Sicily.

Catalan constitutions (1283-1716) and the 15th centuryEdit

At the same time, the Principality of Catalonia developed a complex institutional and political system based in the concept of pact between the estates of the realm and the king. The laws (called constitutions) had to be approved in the General Court of Catalonia, one of the first parliamentary bodies of Europe that banned the royal power to create legislation unilaterally (since 1283). The first Catalan constitutions are of the ones from the Catalan Courts (Corts) of Barcelona from 1283. The last ones were promulgated by the Courts of 1705-1706, presided by the king Charles III. The compilations of the Constitutions and other rights of Catalonia followed the Roman tradition of the Codex. This constitutions developed an advanced compilation of rights for the whole citizens of the Principality and limited the power of the kings.

The General Court of Catalonia, dating from the 11th century, is one of the first parliaments in continental Europe. The Courts were composed by the three estates of the realm and were presided by the king of Aragon. The current Parliament of Catalonia is considered the symbolic and historic successor of this institution.

In order to recapt general taxes, the Courts of 1359 established a permanent representation of deputies, called Deputation of the General (in Catalan: Diputació del General) and later usually known as Generalitat, which gained an important political power during the next centuries.

The domains of the Aragonese Crown were severely affected by the Black Death pandemic and by later outbreaks of the plague. Between 1347 and 1497 Catalonia lost 37 percent of its population.

In 1410, King Martin I died without surviving descendants. Under the Compromise of Caspe, Ferdinand from the Castilian House of Trastámara received the Crown of Aragon as Ferdinand I of Aragon. During the reign of John II, social and political tensions caused the Catalan Civil War (1462-1472). Under its son, Ferdinand II, it was approved the Constitució de l'Observança (1481), that established the submission of royal power to the laws approved in the Catalan Courts. After decades of conflict, the peasants of remença (a mode of serfdom) were liberated from the majority of feudal abuses by the Sentència Arbitral de Guadalupe (1486).

Catalonia during the early modern periodEdit

The marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon (1469) unified two of the three major Christian kingdoms in the Iberian peninsula, while the Kingdom of Navarre was incorporated later following Ferdinand II's 1512 invasion of the Basque kingdom. This resulted in the reinforcement of the concept of Spain, which was already present in the mind of these kings, made up by the former Crown of Aragon, Castile, and a Navarre annexed to Castile (1515). In 1492, the last remaining portion of Al-Andalus around Granada was conquered and the Spanish conquest of the Americas began. Political power began to shift away from Aragon toward Castile and, subsequently, from Castile to the Spanish Empire, which engaged in frequent warfare in Europe striving for world domination.

For an extended period, Catalonia, as part of the late Crown of Aragon, continued to retain its own laws and constitutions but these gradually eroded in the course of the transition from a contractual territory to a centralized dominions and the king's struggle to get from the territories as much of the power as possible until they were finally suppressed as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession defeat.

Over the next few centuries, Catalonia was generally on the losing side of a series of wars that led steadily to more centralization of power in Spain. Despite this fact, between the 16th and 18th centuries, the participation of the political community in the local and the general government of the country was increased, while the King's powers were restricted, specially after the two last Courts (1701-1702 and 1705-1706). Tensions between the constitutional Catalan institutions and the gradually more centralized Monarchy, algongside the other facts as the economical crisis, the presence of soldiers and the peasant's revolts caused diffent conflicts, such as the Catalan Revolt, also called Reapers' War (1640-1652), in the context of the Franco-Spanish War, in which Catalonia, led by the president of the Generalitat, Pau Claris, declared itself an independent republic under French protection in 1641, and later again as a principality of the Monarchy of France, but the Catalans were finally defeated in 1652.

In 1659, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees signed by Philip IV of Spain, the comarques (counties) of Roussillon, Conflent, Vallespir and part of la Cerdanya, now known as French Cerdagne, were ceded to France. In recent times, this area has come to be known by nationalist political parties in Catalonia as Northern Catalonia (Roussillon in French), part of the Catalan-spoken territories known as Catalan Countries.

Catalan institutions were suppressed in this part of the territory and public use of Catalan language was prohibited. Currently, this region is administratively part of French Départment of Pyrénées-Orientales.

At the end of the War of the Spanish Succession (in which the Catalans, alongside the other lands of the Crown of Aragon, supported the unsuccessful claim of the Archduke Charles of Austria as Charles III of Spain) the victorious Bourbon Duke of Anjou, now Philip V, occupied the city of Barcelona by force after a long siege in 11 September 1714 and, later, signed the Nueva Planta decrees, which abolished the Crown of Aragon and all remaining Catalan institutions and laws (except the civil law) and prohibited the administrative use of Catalan language.

After Nueva PlantaEdit

So late as in the 18th and 19th centuries, despite the military occupation, the impositon of high new taxes and the political economy of the House of Bourbon, the Catalonia under Spanish administration (now as a province) continued the process of proto-industrialization, relatively helped at the end of the century from the beginning of open commerce to America and protectionist policies enacted by the Spanish government, becoming a center of Spain's industrialization; to this day it remains one of the most industrialized parts of Spain, along with Madrid and the Basque Country. In 1834, by decree of minister Javier de Burgos, all of Spain was organized into provinces, included Catalonia, which was divided in four provinces without a common administration.

On several occasions during the first third of 20th century, Catalonia gained and lost varying degrees of autonomy, recovering, after the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, the Generalitat as an institution of self-government, but as in most regions of Spain, Catalan autonomy and culture were crushed to an unprecedented degree after the defeat of the Second Spanish Republic (founded in 1931) in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) which brought Francisco Franco to power. Public use of the Catalan language was again banned after a brief period of general recuperation.

The Franco era ended with Franco's death in 1975; in the subsequent Spanish transition to democracy, Catalonia recovered political and cultural autonomy. It became one of the autonomous communities of Spain. In comparison, "Northern Catalonia" in France has no autonomy.


  • Cort General de Catalunya or Corts Catalanes (General Court of Catalonia or Catalan Courts): parliamentary body and main institution of the Principality, created during the 13th century. Summoned and presided by the king, it was composed by the three estates of the realm and approved the legislation and the economic donation to the crown. Also served as monarch's council and as a court of justice during the period of sessions.
  • Diputació del General or Generalitat de Catalunya (Deputation of the General or Generalitat of Catalonia): permanent council of deputes, created in 1359 by the Courts in order to collect the taxes of the General, and later gained political power and tasks of prosecutor, becoming the most relevant Catalan institution during the early modern age.
  • Consell de Cent de Barcelona (Council of One Hundred of Barcelona): institution of government of the city of Barcelona, created during the reign of James I. The municipal authority rested on five, later six, counselors (leaded by the Conseller en cap, Head Counsellor) elected by a Council of hundred individuals (jurats).
  • Reial Audiència i Reial Consell de Catalunya (Royal Audience and Royal Council of Catalonia): supreme court of justice of Catalonia and seat of the government. Its members were elected by the king, and it was presided by the Chancellor (Canceller) during the absence of the king and the viceroy.
  • Conferència dels Tres Comuns (Conference of the Three Commons): joint meeting of the most dynamic institutions of the Catalan constitutional system during the 16th and 18th centuries, the Deputation of the General, the Military Estate and the Council of One Hundred, in order to discuss the political problems of the Principality.
  • Junta de Braços (General Estates): extraordinary council of the Generalitat, composed by some members of the Courts and working like this body, but without formal legislative powers.
  • Tribunal de Contrafaccions (Court of Contraventions): court of justice created by the Courts of 1701-1702 in order to ensure the application of the constitutions and solve and prosecute any act done by the king or his officers contrary to the Catalan legislation. Its members were elected in parity by the institutions of the land and the king. It represented an important advance in the guarantee of individual and civil rights, even in the European context.
  • LegislationEdit

  • Usatges de Barcelona (Usages of Barcelona): compilation of customs and legislation based on the Roman and Visigothic law of the County of Barcelona, aplied in practice to the entire Principality, that form the basis for the Catalan constitutions.
  • Constitucions de Catalunya (Catalan constitutions): laws promulgated by the king and approved by the Catalan Courts. They had pre-eminence over the other legal rules and could only be revoked by the Courts themselves.
  • Capítols de Cort (Chapters of Court): laws promulgated by the Courts and appoved by the king.
  • Actes de Cort (Acts of Court): minor legislative and other rules and decrees promulgated by the Courts, which didn't need the formal approval of the king.
  • SymbolsEdit

    As State under royal sovereignty, Catalonia, like the other political entities of the period, didn't have an own flag or coat of arms in the modern sense. However, many royal and other symbols were used in order to identify the Principality and its institutions.

    The term PrincipalityEdit

    The counts of Barcelona were commonly considered the princeps or primus inter pares ("the first among equals") by the other counts of the Spanish March, both because of their military and economic power, and the supremacy of Barcelona over other cities.

    Thus, the count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer I, is called "Prince of Barcelona, Count of Girona and Marchis of Ausona" (princeps Barchinonensis, comes Gerundensis, marchio Ausonensis) in the Act of Consecration of the Cathedral of Barcelona (1058). There are also several references to the Prince in different sections of the Usages of Barcelona, the collection of laws that ruled the county since the early 11th century. Usage #64 calls principatus the group of counties of Barcelona, Girona, and Ausona, all of them under the authority of the count of Barcelona.

    The first reference to the Principatus Cathaloniae is found in the convocation of Courts in Perpignan in 1350, presided by the king Peter IV of Aragon and III of Barcelona. It was intended to indicate that the territory under the laws produced by those Courts was not a kingdom, but the enlargement of the territory under the authority of the Count of Barcelona, who was also the king of Aragon, as seen in the "Actas de las cortes generales de la Corona de Aragón 1362-1363". However, there seems to be an older reference, in a more informal context, in Ramon Muntaner's chronicles.

    As the Count of Barcelona and the Courts added more counties under his jurisdiction, such as the County of Urgell, the name of "Catalonia", which comprised several counties of different names including the County of Barcelona, was used for the whole. The terms Catalonia and catalans were commonly used to refer to the territory in Northeastern Spain and western Mediterranean France, as well as its inhabitants, and not just the county of Barcelona, at least since the beginnings of the 12th century, as shown in the earliest recordings of these names in the Liber Maiolichinus (around 1117-1125).

    In 1931, Republican movements favoured its abandonment because it is historically related to the monarchy.

    The name "Principality of Catalonia" is abundant in historical documentation that refers to Catalonia between mid-fourteenth century and early nineteenth century. According to research carried out in recent decades, is considered to be in the second half of the twelfth century when the Catalan counties form a unified and cohesive political entity, -although jurisdictionally divided- called "Catalonia". This happens because the counts of Barcelona became the one hand, the majority of sovereigns Catalan Counties and the other hand kings of Aragon, which helped them prevail in the rest of autonomous Catalan counts (Pallars, Urgell and Empúries) if they were not in their feudal vassals, while also incorporated its extensive domain the Islamic territories of Tortosa and Lleida. The political entity resulting from this process since the thirteenth century, was repeatedly mentioned the term "kingdom" as a medieval state, i.e. public domain political regime monarchist government.

    However, it consolidated this denomination officially, because, for various historical reasons, the rulers of the Kingdom of Aragon never uses the title "King of Catalonia." This is where comes in the use of the term "principality", since at least since the twelfth century, the word was synonymous total term "kingdom" which alluded generically political entities which categorize historiographically the expression "Medieval States". Yet it was not until the fourteenth century -specifically, since 1350- that, greetings to work of Peter III of Aragon, the Principality of Catalonia became an official and popular name. This political entity was part of some composite monarchies or dynastic conglomerates as the Crown of Aragon, the Spanish Monarchy and the Kingdom of France (1641-1652), being on an equal footing with other political communities of the time, or external in relation to such great empires, as were the kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, Valencia, England or the Duchy of Milan for to mention a few.

    With the destruction of the Catalan State by force as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession (1705-1714), the territory being annexed to Castile become a province of the new and more unified Kingdom of Bourbon Spain, but "principality" continued to be the name of the territory, as witness the Decree of New Plant created the Royal Audience of the Principality of Catalonia in 1716. This situation remained until the Kingdom of Spain was transformed permanently, despite several Carlist Wars, into a liberal state in 1833, when Secretary Javier de Burgos eliminated the province of the Principality of Catalonia, dividing the territory in four provinces that still exist. Thus, the term disappeared from the adminsitrative and political reality of the country.

    Neither the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, Spanish Constitution nor French Constitution, mention this denomination, but, despite most of them being republican, it is moderately popular among Catalan nationalists and independentists.


    Catalonia constitutes the original nucleus where Catalan is spoken. The Catalan language shares common traits with the Romance languages of Iberia and Gallo-Romance languages of southern France, it is regarded by a minority of linguists as being an Ibero-Romance language (the group that includes Spanish), and by a majority as a Gallo-Romance language, such as French or Occitan from which Catalan diverged between 11th and 14th centuries.

    Catalan is one of the three official languages of autonomous community of Catalonia, as stated in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy; the other two are Spanish, and Occitan in its Aranese variety. Catalan has no official recognition in "Northern Catalonia".

    Catalan has official status alongside Spanish in the Balearic Islands and in the Land of Valencia (where it is called Valencian), as well as Algherese Catalan alongside Italian in the city of Alghero and in Andorra as the sole official language.


  • Traditions of Catalonia
  • Category:Catalan culture
  • Category:Catalan literature
  • Category:Catalan art
  • References

    Principality of Catalonia Wikipedia

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